Sunday, March 27, 2011

Book Review: Operation Mincemeat

In the midst of World War II, a body was discovered floating off the coast of Spain with a briefcase chained to the corpse. Inside were papers that described the details for the forthcoming Allied attack on Southern Europe. Spain was neutral in the war, but operatives from both sides waged a furious intelligence battle and eventually copies of the papers made their way up the German chain of command all the way to Hitler himself. The problem? The body was a plant and the papers were fake; an elaborate ruse designed by British counter-intelligence agents to deceive the Nazis. The plan worked, and the attack on Sicily was successful.

Operation Mincemeat  follows naval intelligence officer Ewen Montagu and MI5 operative Charles Cholmondeley as they pull off the mission from acquiring a dead body to constructing a full life story for the deceased officer to ensuring that the papers landed on Hitler's desk.  If it wasn't true the whole thing might sound like a James Bond novel, and that is not by accident.  Also serving in the naval intelligence at this time (and featuring in this story) was James Bond author Ian Flemming. Flemming's model for "M" was the real life head of naval intelligence when Operation Mincemeat was first hatched, and his inspiration for "Q" was the gadget guy who developed a way for the corpse to be transported from England to the drop point. These guys don't take after James Bond, James Bond takes after these guys.

The story has been told before by Montagu himself in the novel and movie entitled The Man Who Never Was, but author Ben Macintyre draws on newly discovered materials to tell the whole story, including the identity of the body that was at the center of the plot. The book is rich and full of detail, and draws a very vivid picture of life in the British Secret Service during the war and the steamy underbelly of the intelligence community in Spain and Northern Africa at the time.

This book is a must read for anybody who is into World War II or the intelligence community.  In a war known for its grand deceptions, this was one of the grandest of them all.  I'm very pleased I read this book; you will be too.  Four stars. [Amazon]

Saturday, March 26, 2011

2011 Sparkfun AVC

A group of folks from Qualcomm are building a robot to participate in the Autonomous Vehicle Competition at Sparkfun which happens to be right next to our building in Boulder.   Here is our "demo tape" video that we had to submit in order to prove that we were serious about competing:

Monday, March 21, 2011

Oh, God, the humanity

No NFL Season Could Clip The Chicken Wing Industry

The consumerist reports "Don't buy that 780-count of wet naps just yet: If the NFL lockout drags on and results in no season this year, the chicken wing industry could suffer massively, a producer of the game-day snack favorite says."

Okay, now the owners have gone too far.  You can have my foootball and my $8 bucks for a coors light, but get your dirty hands off my chicken wings (or something).  [Consumerist].

Monday, March 14, 2011

Basketball Fever (catch it!)

I'll post my spreadsheets later, but for those of you still filling out brackets, here are my upsets. 
  • Marquette over Xavier
  • Florida State over Texas A&M
  • Illinois over UNLV
  • Utah State over Kansas State
  • Gonzaga over St. Johns
  • Michigan State over UCLA
  • Old Dominion over Butler
I have the higher seeded teams winning, but I think these games will be close:
  • West Virginia (5) vs Clemson (12)
  • George Mason (8) vs Villanova (9)
  • Temple (7) vs Penn State (10)
From the first round on, I'm going chalk until the Sweet 16.  Only possible close one in rounds 2 and 3 might be North Carolina (2) vs Washington (7) in round 2.

In the Sweet 16 I have three 3 seeds going to the Elite 8:  Syracuse, Purdue and BYU.   Back to chalk for the Final 4; I think Duke, Kansas, Pittsburgh, and Ohio State are just that good.  Ohio State vs Duke is going to be a great game, but I think Ohio State pulls it out and meets Kansas in the final, and all the tacos go to the Buckeyes in another squeaker.

As long as BYU loses before the Final 4 then it will be all good.  :)